Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Borderlands 2: like and unlike Diablo III in all the best ways

Dave Oshry plays the PC version of Borderlands 2 and speaks to director Jeremy Cooke. He leaves with a fistful of Diablo III comparisons and melted eyes.
I’ve often compared Borderlands to Diablo. In the quest for epic loot, these games have nearly no equal. It’s what they’re all about. Turn Diablo into a first-person shooter set on an alien planet and you’ve got Borderlands.

Significant streamlining has just been completed on the Diablo franchise, and now Borderlands has followed suit.

The PC version of the original Borderlands had some issues. Besides the fact that the GameSpy network was horribly complicated in general, questing and playing with friends of different levels on different quests was a chore. Well no more.

Speaking with VG247 during a behind-closed-doors PC demo at E3, Borderlands director Jeremy Cooke explained: “If you’re playing with someone on a different level or on a different quest, that won’t be a problem. We’ve fixed all that.”

The system now works much as does the glorious drop-in-drop-out co-op of Diablo III. You can jump in or out of anyone’s game, and vice versa, no matter what quest they’re on. Whomever runs the server runs the quest – just like Diablo. However, unlike Diablo, when left alone you can play Borderlands 2 offline. Crazy, I know.

Also added to the PC version are a number of refinements courtesy of Nvidia and the latest Unreal 3 tech.

There’s no insane DX11 tessellation, but there’s all the PhysX destruction you could ask for. You’ll tear up cloth, shatter windows and splinter wood. Cooke says he’s even seen a corrosive skag barf corrosive liquid which then rolled downhill breaking into smaller puddles along the way. That’s the type of thing you’ll only see on PC, and it’s pretty damned cool.

There’s even radiosity lighting, day-night cycle support (finally), next-gen pixel shading and loads of other new UE3 stuff we’ve seen being added of late. As Jeremy pointed out, the team got the budget to do things its own way this time around, and making a proper PC version was certainly part of Gearbox’s plan for Borderlands 2.

Better yet, as Jeremy says, “The UI is now a proper PC UI.”  You can use your mouse to do almost anything on every screen and also rebind all your keys. There’s even G series LCD support for you Logitech fans out there.

And cloud saving. Hooray for cloud saving.



Love letter

This was all talked about in Claptrap’s love letter to PC gamers which we wrote about back in March, but after seeing all the new PC features in action for myself I came away even more pleased than I’d expected.

It’s more like Diablo and certainly even better in some ways, but it’s not just about the features. As I learned, these “It’s incredibly difficult actually.” As Cooke puts it, “You’ve got barrel 1 with stock 2 and accessory 26 which clips into scope 48,” and that might equal a one-in-a-million DAHL brand rifle. The loot is generated much the same as the stats and names of the weapons in Diablo are randomly generated based on the same principals – except that since this is an FPS with close-up weapon detail, there are infinitely more art assets.

You have different loot for different classes with different stats and there are literally trillions of combinations. It’s mind-boggling to think about, so try not to and be glad that nobody is asking you to. That’s Jeremy’s job.

Unlike Diablo III, Borderlands 2 is also an absolutely gorgeous PC game.  Not that Diablo III is necessarily a “bad” looking game, but at twice the resolution of its console counterparts the detail in the “concept art style” of Borderlands 2, described by Jeremy, “explodes at your eyes.”

“The game actually has color this time around, really bright reds and deep blues. We wanted to do the whole planet with Borderlands 1, but now we can. In Borderlands 1 we only got to see the desert: now you’ve got all the wonders of Pandora.

“We had the entire dev cycle to just refine, focus and add, and I think people will appreciate all the variety in the game”

If my experience is any indication, then he’s absolutely right.

To sum this all up, Borderlands 2 does online just as good as Diablo III, offline obviously better than Diablo III, has more PC-specific features than the PC-only Diablo III, but does looting and questing just as addictively well as Diablo III.  It’s also roughly 100% funnier than Diablo III, but I’m not sure that counts.

So beware the end of your days in the sun as Borderlands 2 fast approaches. It’s everything you loved about the first game, only better in every way. Especially on PC.

Gearbox even says the game has a real ending this time around. Thank dog for that.

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